A large pontoon boat manufacturer is moving its headquarters to Big Lake.

The Big Lake City Council has approved a 12-year, $1.2 million tax abatement program that will allow Premier Marine to relocate to the city.

Carlson Development Group (CDG) will develop the Premier Marine site on 85 acres recently annexed into the City of Big Lake at 18040 US Highway 10 and lease the facility to Premier Marine. 

CDG plans on platting a 20.91- acre parcel to build a 151,710 square-foot facility that will service as Premier Marine’s manufacturing facility, according to city staff. The move to Big Lake allows Premier Marine to have its entire operation under one roof. 

In addition, a 30,000 square foot stand-alone building will be constructed, which will house fiberglass and console operations.

The site also allows for an additional 50,000 square foot expansion adjoining the western wall of the manufacturing plant. The remaining portion of the parcel will be platted as two out lots for future development, leaving 50 acres of shovel ready business park and commercial type lots served by new city infrastructure.

Premier Marine is presently located just north of Forest Lake in Wyoming, Minnesota. The company currently occupies seven buildings in that city and has a workforce of about 200 employees.

Hannah Klimmek, community development director for the City of Big Lake, said Premier Marine will be bringing an existing 193 jobs from Wyoming to Big Lake. An estimated 70 new jobs will be created at the new Big Lake facility, with wages estimated to be $23.62 to $23.83 per hour. Premier Marine owner Chris Carlson said that within five years, the Big Lake operation could employ 400 people based on the company’s growth trajectory.

The total capital investment of the project, which Big Lake and Premier Marine have been working on for over a year, is estimated at $25.4 million

The move from Wyoming to Big Lake is being made, in part, because Premier Marine’s owners Chris and Deb Carlson (also owners of Carlson Development Group) reside in Big Lake Township. They have called the Big Lake community home for over 30 years, the couple told members of the Big Lake City Council.

Chris Carlson was the original founder of the Elk River-based Sportech, and sold the business after 26 years, he said.

More recently, Carlson has formed the Envision Company, which has a goal to acquire small to medium sized businesses in the outdoor sector that includes hunting, fishing, and boating. Envision’s first acquisition was Premier Marine in May of this year.

Last year, Premier Marine produced 850 boats and expects to finish out 2021 with 1,350 boats manufactured, Carlson told councilmembers. He expects about 1,800 boats to be manufactured in 2022, with a goal of producing 5,000 boats within the next five years. Meeting that goal would place Premier Marine within the top five manufacturers in terms of market share, Carlson said.

During a public hearing on the tax abatement proposal, former Big Lake Mayor and current Sherburne County Commissioner Raeanne Danielowski spoke in favor of the measure, noting that Premier Marine presented an opportunity to Big Lake that it has not seen in many years. Danielowski’s husband Ervin also spoke, highlighting the benefits to the city, school district and township.

Planning commission member Ketti Green also spoke at the public hearing, noting that the proposal represents caring for Big Lake’s future through future tax benefits and new rooftops.

The 12-year, $1.2 million tax abatement was unanimously approved by the Big Lake City Council.


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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